- Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage Foundation
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which disabled Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, has led some advocates (including the White House) to argue that voting rights are in peril. But other experts say these fears are wildly overblown and that Shelby County confirms that circumstances have changed dramatically for the better. They argue that Section 5’s federal “preclearance” regime can no longer be justified given that the systematic disenfranchisement of the Jim Crow era has disappeared—racial disparities in voter registration and turnout are gone, especially in previously covered jurisdictions—and that we should focus on actual instances of racial discrimination (as well as election administration). After all, Sections 2 and 3 are still very much in place, although Section 2 has been interpreted to require racial gerrymandering in a way that benefits both major parties but harms American democracy. This panel will discuss the state of voting rights today, including the Justice Department’s enforcement actions, proposed legislation in Congress, voter-ID laws, felon voting, and related issues in the states.
This panel on "The Future of Voting Rights" was part of a day-long conference on Civil Rights in the United States held on September 9, 2014, and co-sponsored by the Federalist Society's Civil Rights Practice Group, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation.
The Mayflower Hotel
This article is based on testimony given by the author before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution on July 18, 2013. by Hans A. von Spakovsky on the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court’s Decision in Shelby County....[Read Now!]
On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The question in this case was whether Congress’s 2006 decision to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.
In an opinion delivered by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that Section 4 of the Voting Rights act is unconstitutional, and therefore cannot be used to subject jurisdictions to preclearance requirements. Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito joined the majority opinion. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.
To discuss the case, we have Abigail Thernstrom, who is the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.